Skip to main content

Full text of "The science of folk-lore"

See other formats


hotfc miSk 



f £. C(^o ]L 

Jr 1 

r /a 


' />/ kP^ ■ 



HAVE been asked to state this evening my views on the 
Science of Folk-Lore, and, as the subject is still under 
discussion, it seems to me that it should be understood 
that the opinions put forward by any particular person 

are his only, and it is with this limitation that I now wish to speak. 
What follows is meant to be merely the expression of my ideas for 
the time being, subject to modification as the discussion wears on—to 
be, in fact, a contribution to aid in solving the question this Society 
has taken up, I should here mention that my arguments will be 
chiefly illustrated by reference to Indian Folk-lore, because that is 

the branch of the subject with which I am best acquainted. 

-• ' 

When we come to talk of science we must begin with definitions, 
and the first matter to be defined in this connection is naturally the 
term u Folk-lore.” What is Folk-lore, and what is not Folk-lore ? 
These questions are not by any means easily answered, as I personally 
found when fixing on the headings under which to class the various 
contributions sent into Panjab Notes and Queries. When an editor 
has to arrange a mass of miscellaneous paragraphs on various subjects 
connected with a land and its people, if he would avoid conveying to 
his readers a general sense of muddle, he must classify his informa- 
tion somehow. Music, Arts and Industries, Administration, Natural 
History, ''Botany, Geography, History, Antiquities, Numismatics, 
Bibliography, Ethnography, and Language, came naturally enough 
as distinct subjects. Then we have Beligion, Social Customs, Songs 
and Catches, Proverbs and Sayings, and—shall we say it ?—Folk¬ 
lore. Such an editor will soon find that Religion, so far as it is 
Superstition-—and with many peoples it should be remembered that 
it is nothing else,—is Folk-lore ; so is a Social Custom, so far as it 

/ • v - : - 

- a 


, •• - I 


•jjr. • ’ J - '• 

: ; - : *y' 



is founded on a superstition ; while Songs and Catches, Proverbs and 
Sayings, are only interesting so far as they embody Folk-lore. 
History, Natural History, and Ethnography, are also Folk-lore, so 
far as they preserve Legends; Language, again, includes much, in 
the matter of derivation especially, that is purely Folk-lore : while 
Antiquities are almost inseparable from Legends. Folk-lore, in fact, 
is present in almost every subject connected with the study of man¬ 
kind, and with many it is so mixed up with sober fact as to be 
practically inextricable. Careful as I have been to try and keep the 
Folk-lore notes in Panjab Notes and Queries separate from the 
remaining subjects, I haye found it quite impossible to do so alto¬ 
gether, and in some cases it has been so hard to say whether a certain 
scrap of information was about Eeligion or Folk-lore, that it has 
seemed to be of no consequence under which heading it was classed : 
it belonged equally to both. 

What, then, is this Folk-lore that we find pervading everything 
human ? It seems to me that the answer is to be found in the term 
itself. As a specimen of the general conception of the meaning of 
the term, the last edition of Webster, quoting the late Archbishop 
Trench as its authority, says that it means “ rural tales, legends, or 
superstitions.” I think every one here will admit that this definition 
does not go nearly far enough. If we take “ folk ” to mean the 
general community, we get “folk-lore” to be the “lore” of the 
people. “ Lore ” means and has meant learning in general, but, 
putting aside derivations and past meanings—a proceeding to which 
each generation in all parts of the world has always asserted its right 
—I think it is fair to say that “ lore ” nowadays, and at any rate in 
this connection, is learning of the kind that is opposed to science, 
meaning by “science” ascertained knowledge. Folk-lore, then , is, in 
the first place, popular learning, the embodiment , that is, of the popular 
ideas on all matters connected with man and his surroundings. Un¬ 
ascertained knowledge is, of course, apt to be very wrong, and so 
much is this the case that we may take it, that where the popular 
interpretation of a fact is quite incorrect, the statement is pretty 
certain to be capable of classification under Folk-lore. A superstition, 
as being an unreasonable and excessive belief, is a fact of Folk-lore : 



so is a legend as unfounded history, or a popular derivation as 
plausible but unwarranted etymology. I do not mean by this that 
every mistake in historical books is to be classed as a Folk-lore fact. 
It is essential that the error should be of the people, popular : that it 
should enter into the general belief in a popular sense. We may 
prove that the Princes were never murdered in the Tower, but the 
usual historical statement that they were would still stand as a mis¬ 
statement, not as a folk-legend. We may prove to a moral certainty 
that Amy Robsart was never murdered, that Leicester never ill- 
treated her, that he publicly married her, that she was by no means a 
girl when she died, that Sir Richard Varley was in reality a most 
worthy country gentleman, and that the whole story as given by Scott 
is a fiction taken from a vindictive pamphlet issued by Leicester’s 
enemies; and yet, though no part of it is accurate history, the story is 
not a folk-tale. At the same time, if the story of Queen Elizabeth 
and Raleigh’s cloak can be shown to be the common property of the 
human race, it is worth investigation as a folk-tale. 

“ The embodiment of the popular ideas on all matters connected 
with man [and his surroundings,” the preliminary definition above 
arrived at from a dissection of the term “ Folk-lore,” is perhaps a little 
too wide. It is at any rate too long-winded, and I put forward the 
primary definition, the popular explanation of observed facts , as fairly 
satisfying all requirements and permitting us to differentiate between 
what is and what is not Folk-lore better than any other. I do not, 
however, think it possible to keep the boundary always quite distinct : 
a fact that need not distress us, for we are here in no greater difficulty 
than are the votaries of any other science. Who can tell precisely in 
every case where animal life ends and plant life begins ? And who 
will under every circumstance distinguish between reason and instinct, 
or between the animate and inanimate world ? 

The fons et origo of all Folk-lore is apparently the instinct of man 
to account for the facts that he observes round about him, and hence 
the particular form in which I have cast the initial definition of the 
term. Man observes a fact, and he at once sets about to explain it. 
This he does by instinct ; but the nature of his explanation depends 
upon his mental condition, and in arriving at it he is bound by 

. a 2 



certain natural laws which I will endeavour to shadow forth presently. 
Critical acumen and that accurate explanation of facts, which is 
based on systematic study and observation, and which we now 
call scientific, has come very slowly to mankind:—to a great extent 
indeed in our days. It has arrived at its present condition point 
by point, as has everything else in the world : and the cruder the 
mind of the varieties of man all the world over, now and in times 
past, and the further from the scientific state, the rougher the 
explanation and the wilder the guesses at truth. It must be remem¬ 
bered that the scientific explanation of a phenomenon involves critical 
observation, which is itself the outcome of a long continued education; 
the power of logical deduction, which may be reckoned as being 
mainly absent from the average popular mind ; and the faculty for 
extended application, which is to a great extent the distinguishing 
mark of a trained intellect. What chance then has the untutored 
savage, or indeed the uncultivated member of a civilized race, of 
arriving at a right conclusion about anything that comes within his 
ken ? As a matter of fact, the stages of observation, collection and 
arrangement of facts, and argument thereon, are impossible to such 
an individual, and in common parlance he invariably jumps to his 
conclusions: not because he is too idle to do otherwise, but because 
he cannot help himself. Hence comes Folk-lore, not exactly the 
Folk-lore we now study,—for this is a growth with a long history of 
its own,—but Folk-lore as the popular explanation of phenomena. 

Where the effect does not immediately follow the cause, or where 
the connection between cause and effect is not at once apparent, the 
popular mind cannot hit off the true explanation of the effect, except 
by accident, and hence it is that Folk-lore is to a great extent a 
permanent record, as well as a perpetuation, of popular errors. It 
must always be so. To take altogether modern phenomena. Will a 
savage or an Asiatic peasant, for instance, ever give the true reason 
for the movement of the trains on the railway that is being made 
through his lands ? The motor will be a devil that sits in the engine, 
or the engine itself a panting spirit controlled by the driver; anything 
rather than the reality. So will the telegraph wires be a means of 
carrying letters, or be endowed with the power of communicating the 



secrets of those living near them. It has always been so. From 
time immemorial eclipses have been caused by a monster that periodi¬ 
cally eats up the sun and moon, and disgorges them again. A very 
large number of our Indian fellow-subjects of the Queen-Empress 
think so still. 

There is a corollary to be attached to the above definition of Folk¬ 
lore, and the term for the purpose of study must be made to include 
the customs which arise out of it. These customs originate in that 
common sense which is so often ridiculed as the most uncommon 
nonsense. A demon or god, for the terms are in practice nearly 
synonymous, lives in one of the Indian fig-trees, as is clear to the 
natives from the perpetual trembling of its leaves : this much is the 
explanation of cause and effect. All demons or gods are capable of 
good and evil : this is anthropomorphism—man arguing down to 
himself. Therefore it is obvious that the demon or god must be pro¬ 
pitiated by a gift : this is common sense underlaid by anthropo¬ 
morphism. Hence the gifts to the tree, now a general religious 
custom. By similar stages we arrive at the equally universal Indian 
social custom of opprobriously naming children. Three children of 
doting parents die successively,—quite an ordinary occurrence among 
primitive people who let their little ones run naked and have no idea 
of caring for them, as we understand this matter,—and what causes 
it ? Not want of care assuredly in their eyes, but the spirit that has 
taken a fancy to the babes, and acquired them for himself. How 
shall they avoid this in the future ? u By cheating the spirit,” 
answers common sense, and so the next little boy is given a dis¬ 
gusting name, and dressed up as a girl until past childhood. I 
think the process by which custom grows out of myth is to be ex¬ 
plained somewhat as above, though I would at this stage again 
remind my hearers that every social fact, as we now observe it, has a 
long history behind it, and that this must be first examined before its 
existence can be scientifically accounted for. 

If the full definition, that Folk-lore as an object of study is the 
popular explanation of observed facts and the customs arising there¬ 
from , is to stand, it must reasonably meet all circumstances, and 
separate, as sharply as may be, what is from what is not Folk-lore. 



Let us proceed to put it to a few tests. Religion as being a belief in 
and reverence for God (or the gods), including the rites and cere¬ 
monies legitimately arising from such belief and reverence, is not 
Folk-lore ; but superstition and all the practices arising therefrom is. 
Thus the Muhammadan belief in Allah and Muhammad the Prophet 
of Allah, and all the legitimate rites and ceremonies connected with 
the worship of Allah, cannot be reckoned as Folk-lore j but the 
popular story of the martyrdom of Hasan and Hussain and the 
miracle-play arising out of it are nothing else. The teaching and 
philosophy of Buddhism are not Folk-lore, nor are many of the 
modern ceremonies connected with that religion as such ; but the 
“ Romantic Legend of Buddha/’ as Mr. Beale has called it, 
and the Jattakas are purely so. Passing on to Social Customs, the 
matriarcat and the many curious remains of bygone necessities and 
times still to be found in the laws of inheritance through females, 
the levirate and other rales of barbarous marriage, and such customs 
as polyandry and exogamy and the survivals of marriage by capture, 
customs connected with births and deaths related to religion as dis¬ 
tinguished from superstition, rules for tribal government and social 
intercourse, are not Folk-lore ; but all the thousand and one notions 
as to the habits and actions of spirits and supernatural things, and 
the practices arising out of the urgency of counteracting their 
influence, are Folk-lore par excellence. According to the definition, 
too, probably the whole subject of totemism, should be classed as 
Folk-lore. Turning to Ethnography, the distinction is not so easily 
upheld, but it is still, I think, clear enough. For instance, where in 
India a tribe of really low, and, in fact, lost origin, as far as its 
information about itself goes, erroneously claims—and this is a com¬ 
mon occurrence—an honourable Rajput descent, it deceives nobody, 
and the statement is not a fact of Folk-lore, anv more than would 
a bogus family genealogy be in England ; but when it goes on, like 
the Gakkhars of the Hills near the Indus—those ancient Hindus 
who so bravely resisted Mahmud of Ghazni, and who were forcibly 
converted to Islam not more than 500 or 600 years ago—to claim 
descent from the Kayanian Kings of Persia, and invent a story to 
prove it, then Folk-lore steps in and takes possession of the ground. In 



the like manner the tendency of untutored nations is naturally towards 
the exaggeration of the terrors with which they invest persistent 
enemies in the past, and hence arises much ethnological Folk-lore— 
the monkey races and the Kakshasas of India, the ogres or Uigur 
Tatars of Europe, the Giaours (Jaurs) and Guebres (Gabrs) or fire¬ 
worshipping opponents of the early Arab conquerors of Persia. In 
the case of History and Geography, as long as sober facts are pur¬ 
ported to be related, let the relation be as inaccurate as it may, there 
is no Folk-lore. Thus, however unfounded and capable of refutation 
Macaulay’s version of the doings of Warren Hastings and Sir Elijah 
Impey may be, it is in no part Folk-lore ; but when the natives of 
Bengal come to telling us that Nuncomar (ISTand Kumar) was a very 
holy man who was hung by the English by a golden chain on a 
gallows fixed in the middle of the Ganges in answer to his petition to 
the gods that he might die in the full possession of his faculties and 
in the act of prayer, they are repeating a true legend and Folk-lore 
is in the ascendant. The body of the Nawab of Loharu, who was 
hanged for encompassing the death of Mr. Fraser at Dehli some fifty 
years since, no doubt swung round, as is related, after death to the 
direction of Mecca (Makka). This may be called a fact of history, 
but when you add, as the natives of Dehli do, that this was because 
he was innocent and a martyr, you are repeating a fact of Folk-lore. 
The same reasoning applies to all matters connected with ancient 
remains and antiquities generally. To Language the definition seems 
to be peculiarly applicable. Men have long observed that words grow 
up around them and have a derivation one from another. Especially 
is this the case with familiar proper names of people and things ; and 
in all climes the populace has invented derivations for appellatives, 
the real origin of which has been lost. In India the processes of 
folk-etymology are still a living force in guiding the popular fancy. 
The native mind has not at all yet reached the scientific stage, and, 
consequently, the most childish derivations are everywhere gravely 
asserted as reasonable origins for the forms of names. This happens, 
too, in quarters where such things are the least to be expected. In 
the Panjab Notes and Queries I have collected a string of native 
derivations of tribal and caste names, which are purely imaginary, 



from the Settlement Report of Ambald , a solemn Government publica- 
tion relating to the method of collecting the land revenue of the 
district, and consequently recording only the sober and useful facts 
regarding the people and their history, but many of these facts as 
detailed by the natives are pure Folk-lore. Colonel Yule, in the last 
of those monumental works which have given him so high a reputa¬ 
tion, has provided us with a whole dictionary of terms in which folk- 
etymology appears; but throughout his Glossary of Anglo-Indian 
Words it seems to me that the Folk-lore is easily separable from the 
instances quoted of mistaken etymologies. Thus, whether or not it 
be right to ultimately derive the now well-known word u godown ” 
from the Malay gadong, as some do, or from the Tamil kidangu , as 
others do, in any case those who may in the end be proved to be 
wrong merely occupy the place of one defeated in argument; but the 
eoncocter of such a term as “ Hodson-Jobson ” out of Yd Hasan yd 
Hussain , the popular cry at the Muhammadan festival of the Mu- 
harram, who applies it to the whole ceremony, is guilty of jumping to 
his conclusions in true folk-fashion. So is the user of such a name as 
u cow-itch ” for the irritating Indian bean ; since this term arises, as 
the result of striving after a meaning from the modern native name 
kawach , which is really a Prakritic derivative, by a legitimate process 
of boiling-down, of the Sanskrit kapi-kachchhu — i.e. f monkey-itch; 
a meaning, by the way, that has escaped Colonel Yule. As regards 
Proverbs and Songs I need hardly say anything here, as I presume 
it to be admitted that Proverbs are the memoria technica of the ideas 
of the people, and that their Songs are the musical expression of the 
same. Folk-tales, where not exactly legends, I take to belong to the 
same category. 

I fear the discussion on the definition of the term “ Folk-lore” 
has taken rather a long time, but it is worth while to thrash out this 
point thoroughly, as everything that follows must depend on what we 
mean by the name of our subject. Let us now pass on to the “ Science 
of Folk-lore,” by which I suppose is meant the study of Folk-lore in 
the recognised scientific style. As to this I have already expressed 
my views elsewhere, and these, with your permission, I will reiterate 
now with modifications, since what is required on the present occa- 



sion is a discourse as to the manner in which the Society should set 
about this study. 

In all scientific research observation of the facts from which the 
deductions are to be made of course comes first, but this observation 
must be critical. It is of no sort of use to observe everything indis¬ 
criminately, for this leads to confusion. Only the facts of Folk-lore- 
in other words, the matters that fall within the definition of the term — 
are wanted; hence the primary importance of defining what Folk-lore 
is. If I may be permitted to do so I would here point out a danger 
to enthusiasts, for I presume we are all enthusiastic. It consists in 
overdoing the self-appointed task. The subject is so wide, the facts 
to be observed so many and so ubiquitous, and the interest, when once 
roused, rapidly becomes so keen, that we are all apt to observe too 
much. Too much soon includes rubbish, and then down comes our 
friend the critic. I say “ friend ” advisedly, howsoever too candid he 
may appear to be at the time with his cold advice to examine and go 
carefully. Dr. Westcott used to be fond of explaining to the boys 
at Harrow how it was that a modern savant, unlike his ancient proto¬ 
type, could not learn all the sciences, by drawing a series of circles, 
one inside the other, representing respectively the various stages of 
knowledge attained by man during his progress on earth, A bright 
intellect could easily grasp, he used to say, all the knowledge that 
was contained in the small inner circle; a sound one could manage 
the next; an exceptional mind could master the third; but the fourth 
was bevond the power of man ; and as for the large outer circle, 
including all modern science, one intelligence could attain to only a 
small portion of it. This was with reference to science generally ; 
but without exaggeration one may say that so greatly has scientific 
knowledge increased of late that what is true of Science as a whole 
is also true of any particular branch of it. A man is indeed oftener 
right than wrong in confining his efforts to the elucidation of a 
portion only of a scientific subject. Another danger is in being dis¬ 
heartened at the rigid requirements of Science. Says a humble votary 
of Folk-lore: “It is of no use my doing anything; these scientific 
gentlemen want so muchand how am I to know whether my 
observations when made are of any use ? ” To such a question the 



answer would be that the difficulty looks much greater than it is. 
The requirements are not in reality very difficult to understand, and 
when grasped fulfilment is almost instinctive. One can learn some¬ 
thing here from school-children. Most boys in a well-taught school 
will correctly point out the verbs, adverbs and nouns in a sentence, 
though not one of them has ever understood, or is indeed ever likely to 
understand, the jumble of ideas that does duty in the school grammar 
for the definitions of these parts of speech. Definitions are in fact 
the most difficult of all points for a teacher to tackle, and are 
formidable to the student only in appearance, and that because, being 
so difficult, they are often clumsily expressed. Practically no one is 
too humble to observe a Folk-lore fact, and no fact is too trifling or 
commonplace to be worthy of record. What is an every-day occurrence 
of no import in your neighbourhood may be a new revelation to the 
student seeking for links—the existence of which he suspects—to 
complete the chain of his investigations. The moral of the argument 
is, that between the rashness that would grasp at everything and the 
timidity that would be led by the nose, there lies a golden mean 
dependent on individual judgment. In the conduct of a scientific 
study—it being a human affair—something must be left to discretion, 
and this is a matter that cannot be avoided. 

Having decided on what we are to observe we come to the method 
of record. Here accuracy and attention to essential details are 
paramount considerations : it being constantly borne in mind that 
every fact collected is intended to be an item to be eventually brought 
into account. Unaccompanied by such details as time, place, and 
nationality of currency and its history, where such is known, the bare 
statement of a fact is not of much use; while so to record it as to 
make it unfitted for collation is a mere waste of time. It is of great 
importance, too, that the collection should be systematically made. 
Not long ago a little book was published, by my friend Mr. Man, on 
the Andamanese Islanders, which is a reprint of papers read before 
the Anthropological Institute, and which is to my mind a model of 
what a systematic record should be. In it Mr. Man goes through 
his subject steadily point by point until he has given us a complete 
view of the savages he has studied. Commencing with their physical 



characteristics he passes on to their mental capacities, their tribal dis¬ 
tribution, social customs, habits and folk-lore. He next considers their 
language, ceremonies, superstitions and religious beliefs, and then 
their social relations, personal habits, trade, arts, and manufactures. 
This enumeration of the heads of his monograph gives them in but 
the merest outline : the details are worthy of consideration. They 
are, however, all to be found elsewhere in a more complete form, for 
the basis of his work is a skeleton plan drawn up under the auspices 
of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, called a 
Manual of Anthropological Notes and Queries. A similar guide-book 
for the use of travellers has been compiled by the Boyal Geographical 
Society. This shows the feasibility of one of the most useful practical 
duties this Society could undertake, viz. the preparation by committees 
of standard manuals , showing under each branch of the subject what 
kind of facts it is desirable to collect, in what order they should be 
recorded, and how they should be classified. In matters of this kind 
the most experienced of us ought not to disdain the collective advice 
of his fellow-students, and to the inexperienced such guides would be 
invaluable. I do not think we could inculcate too persistently the 
importance of being systematic in. our joint labours, for though it is 
all capable of being made to work out in one direction, there is a vast 
mass of multifarious matter to be collected, arranged and sifted, and 
the natural tendency is towards an aimless aggregation of details. 
This must lead to hopeless confusion unless checked, and as it is 
sure to perpetually exist, it must always be guarded against. 

If we act rightly as to these two points the remainder of the work 
may be in a great measure left to take care of itself. In the matter 
of induction those who undertake to reason on the facts collected, and 
thus to explain the general principles which underlie the phenomena 
observed, become ipso facto teachers; and I think it will be admitted 
that such persons should be left to go their own way, that the sound¬ 
ness of their doctrines should be the only ground on which these 
should eventually stand or fall, and that no attempt should be made 
to coerce them into a particular style of argument. At the same 
time it is within the right of every student to put forward his views 
as to the method which should be adopted, and it is in the exercise of 



this right that I ask yon to listen for a few moments to my ideas on 
this point. The basis of my argument is that every thing in this 
world as we now find it,—or indeed since man has been able at any 
time to find it—has a history, and that to attempt to explain any 
phenomenon, using the term in its strict sense of something that 
meets the eye, by any process that does not involve examination of 
such history, is unsafe, and therefore unscientific. The Max Mullerian 
Theory of Comparative Mythology, as the latest number of Melusine 
calls it, has been hotly opposed for some time past, and many hard 
things have been said of it, but to my mind the overwhelming argu¬ 
ment against it is, that it is not scientific. It does precisely what it 
should not. It jumps to its conclusions, ignores history, deduces its 
facts from theory, and does not induce its theory from the facts. As 
some at any rate of those present will know, I have been for some time 
past engaged in unearthing all that can be ascertained regarding Raja 
Rasalu, the King Arthur of the Panjab. To my surprise about two 
years ago I found that in the Westminster Review a mythologist had 
duly appropriated the hero as a solar myth. No one at all acquainted 
with the Science of Comparative Mythology could, the article said, 
for a moment doubt it. The roots of this strongly-worded belief were 
fixed in certain tales about Rasalu, which had been published by Mr. 
Swynnerton, and which had made the hero out to be a wanderer on 
the earth, who fought tremendous battles against the giants and 
conquered them. He was, moreover, a “ fatal child,” i.e., one 
destined to injure his parents, and is what is in India known as a 
“ Zinda Pir,” a holy personage expected to appear again on the earth ; 
and, lastly, he had a wonderful horse. This set the writer thinking 
about Indra, Woden, Sisyphus, Hercules, Sampson, Apollo, Theseus, 
Arthur, Tristram, Perseus, QEdipus, Phaethon, Orpheus, Amphion, Pan, 
and others, and on certain points in the legends of such personages, 
which led him to the conclusion that the whole lot, including Rasalu, 
were elemental myths of some sort or other. Now I venture to 
submit that it is capable of historical proof that Rasalu was a popular 
leader on to whose name has been hung, as a convenient peg, much of 
the floating folk-lore of the Panjab. At any rate I hope to show 
conclusively before my volumes on the legends of the Panjab have 



come to an end that the particular tale, which went to prove beyond 
doubt in the mind of our Comparative Mythologist that Rasalu was a 
solar myth, are by no means confined to that hero, but are the general 
property of the heroes of India, told of this one or that as occasion 
arises. They are, moreover, as regards Rasalu himself, to a great 
extent only one local version out of many of his story. If this West¬ 
minster reviewer did not jump to his conclusions, I should like to 
know what to say of his method of reasoning ? In forming a judg¬ 
ment on such views as he expresses we should not allow any display 
of learning to dazzle us into concurrence. Doubtless the outside 
scientific public does not do so. Erudition is knowledge culled from 
literature, and is not science, which is knowledge derived from the 
proper investigation of facts ; and so the most learned of disquisitions 
may not be in the least degree scientific. That the works of the 
philological school of Comparative Mythologists are learned enough 
there is no doubt, but to call Comparative Mythology, as they under¬ 
stand it, a science, is, I submit, to use a misnomer. Much of their 
method is indeed empiricism in excelsis. The Science of Folk-lore 
should include Comparative Mythology, but I would warn the members 
of this Society, that if the notion gets abroad that they are mere 
dilettanti , from whose labours nothing solid is to be expected, it will 
take a long while to eradicate it; and that if they once allow—as have 
the Comparative Mythologists—the scientific world to consider their 
methods haphazard, they will bring upon their works a contempt 
which wfill not be altogether undeserved. 

It will have been observed by students that the Comparative Myth¬ 
ologists have held the peasantry of all ages to be endowed with very 
fine powers of imagination. Now this seems to me to be a mistake, 
and the truth to be that the rustic imaginative faculty is, and has 
always been, but moderately developed. Physiologists teach us that 
the action of a man’s brain is governed by physical laws, over which 
he has really no control, and that his powers are limited in all direc¬ 
tions. Now I put it as a proposition worth examining, that the limits 
of human imagination are conterminous with the bounds of human 
experience . Of poetic afflatus the ordinary story-teller has only a 
small share. A mediaeval version of the story of Tristram and the 



etherealized legend of Lord Tennyson are two very different things ; 
and what the credulous do in practice, when getting up a legend, is 
to allow their imaginations to exaggerate what they have either seen 
or heard about, i.e ., experienced. The themes are always set them, 
as it were: they merely concoct the variations. Whatever they do, 
they do unconsciously, and it is nearer to scientific truth to say that 
all Folk-lore is a growth, than to hold that its ideas are the product 
of the inventive genius of untutored man. The Pedigree of the Devil 
is a book, followed quite lately by a History of Monsters, which takes 
up the line of argument, that constructive demonology generally is 
really due to the survival of memories of creatures that have existed 
on earth within the ken of man, though not within historical times. 
There is much more in this than would at first appear, and the theory, 
being capable of inductive demonstration, is therefore worthy of being 
looked into. 

The upshot of the above remarks is that the historical method of 
investigation as regards Folk-lore is scientific, because it is safe; and 
that it is unsafe to assume for the purposes of argument that imagin¬ 
ation is an unlimited quantity. Those who follow the historical 
method cannot be charged with quackery, for they must at least know 
what they are about at every step; and believe me, the more matter- 
of-fact an argument is, and the less room it allows for the play of 
emotion, the less scope is there for error and the more it convinces. 
I crave your pardon for thus pressing the value of the historical method 
on your attention. I do so because it seems to me that the tendency 
of those who have preceded me on this subject is to be content with 
mere comparison as a basis for their explanation of the phenomena of 
Folk-lore. What I would strongly urge is that we should remember 
that the world of which we have human record is so old that all 
things—even those which appear to us as primitive—must have a 
history, and that before we compare we should , so far as we are able , 
ascertain that we are historically justified in making the comparison. 
A certain custom exists in Holland, and its counterpart in India. 
Query : Are they connected at all, and, if so, which springs from the 
other ? I would say that, first, the history of each in its own country 
should be examined, until we come to the point when it can be proved 



that there was a contact between the peoples of Holland and India: 
then that research should go on to see if in both lands the custom is 
traceable beyond the point of contact. If so, simple comparison is 
useless. If it only makes its appearance for the first time in one of 
them after the point of contact, the process of derivation can be 
continued on sound principles. This mode of investigation has been 
so effectively used in such books as the Philological Society’s English 
Dictionary and Yule’s Glossary above mentioned, that I would 
earnestly recommend it to your notice. 

There is one thing more that savans will demand of the Science of 
Folk-lore. It must have a definite object, and occupy a definite place 
in the category of sciences. On this point I will, with your leave, 
repeat what I have already said elsewhere, which is this : “ The wide 
term anthropology covers all the subjects, from the examination of 
which we are led to grasp the details of that complicated structure— 
the modern human being in his mental and physical aspects. Folk¬ 
lore is, or at least should be, one of these subjects. Just as physio¬ 
logists are enabled by a minute and exact examination of skulls or 
teeth or hair, and so on, to differentiate or connect the various races 
of mankind, so should Folk-lorists, as in time I have no doubt they 
will, be able to provide reliable data towards a true explanation of the 
reasons why particular peoples are mentally what they are found to 
be. Folk-lore then, as a scientific study, has a specific object, and 
occupies a specific place.” 

In short, let it be clearly understood that Folk-lorists know what 
they are driving at, and that they moreover know how to set about 
their business, and they may take it for granted that there will not 
be much difficulty in procuring a general acceptance of the view that 
Folk-lore is a science. 

Great as the temptation is, I will make no attempt on this occasion 
to enter into the examination of the various branches of the general 
subject of Folk-lore, or to discuss the proper method of conducting the 
inquiry into such matters as folk-tales, superstitions, customs, &c., 
partly because the time at my disposal will by no means admit of it, 
and partly because it seems that what we have to settle now are 
general principles. The exact manner of application of these will of 



course have to vary with the circumstances of the several branches, 
but whatever be the system we adopt, it will have to be continued 
throughout all our researches, wheresoever they may carry us. 

Doubtless some will be found to assert that after all there is nothing 
much in the shape of practical advantage to be got out of Folk-lore, 
however scientifically studied. To refute in advance any such argu¬ 
ment, I have this evening brought with me a book, which will be new 
to most people in England, and to which I would draw special atten¬ 
tion. It is called Notes on the Spirit Basis of Belief and Custom , and 
is being produced by the Bombay Government, under the guidance of 
Mr. James Campbell, the able editor of the official Gazetteer of the 
Bombay Presidency. It is, you will perceive, a big book, and con¬ 
sists, indeed, of 510 foolscap pages, printed on half margin for a par¬ 
ticular reason—for it purports to be only the rough draft of a summary 
of the chief details of the customs of the population of Bombay, and 
the blank margin is intended for the additions of those to whom it is 
circulated for information. Bough, incomplete, and imperfect as it 
professes to be, it is by far the best exposition of Indian Folk-lore 
that has yet been compiled. The treatment of the subject is through¬ 
out systematic, the theory is built up out of the facts accumulated, 
and each item is made to occupy its natural position in the structure. 
The introduction opens with the words : “ In most cases the known 
and open object of the nurse and wise woman, i.e., the private element 
in Indian family rites, is spirit-scaring.” In perusing the pages that 
follow, one cannot help feeling that, though they stand first, these 
words were written last, and thus it ought always to be in works pur¬ 
porting to be scientific. The best impression a writer on science can 
convey to his readers is that his theory is the outcome of the study 
of the facts he has brought together. I have been so much struck 
with the method pursued by Mr. Campbell in supporting his theory 
that I have had the tabular statement of it, and also his table of 
contents, with suitable modifications, printed for circulation to-night. 
From these you will see that he has covered a considerable portion of 
the whole field of Folk-lore, and how readily his facts fall into their 
allotted places. Now, Mr. Campbell says in his preface that his notes 
were prepared “to show the natives of India how early and how wide- 



spread are the ideas which form the basis and which show the meaning 
of Indian nursery rites and old wives’ cures,” and he goes on to say : 
“ These practices and beliefs are found close under the surface in all 
nations, however high their religion and refined their culture. They 
have the great interest and value of being survivals of often the only 
traces of forefathers as rude and hard pressed as the wildest tribes 
now on earth. Like present wild tribes , the ancestors of all nations 
had practices coarse and strange , but always sensible , based on the 
experience of what had stood them in greatest stead in their ceaseless 
and uphill fight with disease and death.” These are weighty words, 
and show the every-day practical value of such researches as the 
writer’s. I have no hesitation in saying that to us Englishmen such 
studies are not only practical, but they are in some respects of the first 
importance. The practices and beliefs included under the general 
head of Folk-lore make up the daily life of the natives of our great 
dependency, control their feelings, and underlie many of their actions. 
We foreigners cannot hope to understand them rightly unless we 
deeply study them, and it must be remembered that close acquaintance 
and a right understanding begets sympathy, and sympathy begets 
good government; and who is there to say that a scientific study 
which promotes this, and, indeed, to some extent renders it possible, 
is not a practical one ? 

In running over the various efforts already made by this Society to 
erect the study of Folk-lore into a Science, it may seem to some that 
the above remarks have come rather late in the day; but I have been 
emboldened to make them, as those members, who have a practical 
experience of the study, have, as I gather, been directly invited to 
communicate their individual notions. Soon after its formation the 
Folk-Lore Society began to take a scientific view of its subject, 
though it hardly seems to have been founded with that idea. There 
are no signs of any but a literary and antiquarian interest in Folk¬ 
lore in Mr. Thoms’s preface to the first volume of the Record; but 
Mr. Ralston in the same volume draws attention to a system of classi¬ 
fication and nomenclature of folk-tales, and the Council commenced 
on the bibliography of Folk-lore and the "indexing of Folk-lore books- 




Nothing much has since been done as to the third of these points, but 
.the first two have been considerably developed. In their first Report, 
too, the Council began to define the word “ Folk-lore,” and to talk of 
the “ Science ” ; but their statement of the work that the Society pro¬ 
posed to itself was still mainly confined to the collection of materials. 
Mr. Lang, however, devoted his preface to the second volume of the 
Record mostly to the “ Science of Folk-lore,” and what was to be 
expected of it; and the following year saw Mr. Nutt’s translation 
of Sebillot’s scheme of classification, and its issue to members in 
pamphlet form. At the same time Mr. Lang suggested the sys¬ 
tematic classification of Proverbs, and a committee was formed for 
this purpose. The fourth volume was enriched by Mr. Nutt’s “Aryan 
Expulsion and Return Formula,” with the valuable chart attached, 
which led to a very important result in the formation of the Folk- 
Tale Committee. The fifth and last volume contained the Report of 
this committee, which included the system of tabulating Folk-tales, 
since found so useful; and the Annual Report of the Council, published 
at the same time, showed how the Society’s work was progressing 
from the collection of materials to the consideration of the same, it 
being no longer possible to restrict its work to its original sphere. 
We now come to the Folk-Lore Journal , and by the time the second 
volume is reached we find the scientific study of Folk-lore already 
developed into a branch of anthropological science; and at p. 285 is 
'Mr. Gomme’s note on “Folk-lore Terminology,” which, especially 
since he followed it up with the wish that it should be settled once 
for all that Folk-lore is a science, has led to that long subsequent dis¬ 
cussion on the Science of Folk-lore, to which the present paper is 
intended as a contribution. As far as I can make out, the various 
writers who have joined in it have attempted to define the scope of 
the new science, and also to develop a scheme for the study of it. It 
is further clear, from what they have said, that each scheme of study 
put forth has depended on the definition that preceded it. The result 
of the friendly controversy which has thus been carried on is in effect 
this : we have before us several separate definitions of the word 
“Folk-lore,” and several distinct plans for studying it, each of which 


implies criticism of the others. When invited, therefore, to state my 
views, I could have expressed them by criticising those that have pre¬ 
ceded me; but that would have made me an arbiter of the discussion, 
a position I have no right to assume : and I trust I have not done 
wrongly in increasing the materials for the controversy instead of fol¬ 
lowing such a course. It seems to me that the questions of the 
correct definition and the right plan can only be settled satisfactorily 
in committee, and will never be set at rest by any individual reasoner. 
I have also perceived that the terms by which it has been proposed to 
name the divisions of each scheme arose out of the scheme itself, so 
that we have already a large number of sub-titles, mostly combined 
with the word u folk,” for the minor branches of our study, the greater 
number of which must perforce be eventually discarded; so I have 
avoided adding to the number of the still-born, and have above con¬ 
fined myself to general principles when discussing the proper method 
of procedure. 

Besides the above-mentioned efforts to directly advance the develop¬ 
ment of Folk-lore into a Science, several articles have appeared both in 
the Record and in the Journal which have largely contributed towards 
it. Among these I would mention Mr. Cootes’ on the u Neo-Latin 
Fay ” and on “ Catskin,” and Mr. Lang’s u Anthropology and the 
Vedas,” as emphasizing much that I have just advanced as to the 
value of historical treatment. Mr. Clodd’s 11 Philosophy of Punchkin” 
is also valuable as drawing attention to the usefulness of periodically 
taking stock of the materials to hand; and Mr. Fenton on “ Folk-lore 
as an aid to Education” proves that at least one practical result of no 
small consequence is to be got out of the Science. 

The formation of a Folk-lore Library has, I see, been more than 
once mooted, but nothing much has come of the idea. I suggest that 
a Museum as well as a Library would be of immense advantage to 
students, though for either we must find a fixed habitation—a matter 
we have not so far been able to accomplish for ourselves. Would it 
not be possible to start a scheme of donations for both these objects 
in cash or kind, trusting to subscriptions in the future for main¬ 
tenance ? We have the example of that oldest of all Oriental 



Societies—the Asiatic Society of Bengal—for our encouragement in 
this respect. Its Museum and Library were both commenced and 
kept going when its funds were very low and its members far fewer 
than ours are now; yet the Museum grew to be valuable enough to be 
taken over by the Government of India as a nucleus for the present 
splendid Indian Museum at Calcutta, and its Library into the fine 
collection of books it now possesses. 

A word as to general terminology. “Folk-lore” is a fine English 
compound, but we are sadly in want of an alternative, if only for the 
sake of useful and necessary derivatives. “Folk-lorist ” and “Folk-loric ” 
are not pleasant forms, but we have been long ago driven to use both. 
I would suggest some such classically-formed synonym as demology, 
demosophy or demonomy, —the last for choice—capable of easy develop¬ 
ment into passable derivatives as being of practical use. Dogma has 
been appropriated already by religious disputants, or dogmology might 
answer, and demodogmology is rather long. Dokeology and dokesiology, 
as the study of fanciful opinions, might do, if we are careful to preserve 
the original k to prevent mispronunciation, for “ doce-ology ” would 
be dreadful. Doxology would answer exactly, if it had not been long 
ago, even in Greek, given a specialized meaning. Demology might 
also be objected to for a similar reason. Anyhow, I hope some con¬ 
venient term will be before long devised to meet the emergency. 

And now, in thanking you for having patiently listened to this 
exposition of my views, I take occasion to repeat that I have no 
desire to dogmatize ; and that I have given my discourse the particular 
turn it has taken, because I understand it to be still desired that con¬ 
tributions be made towards the definition of the term “ Folk-lore,” and 
towards the settlement of the principles on which the Science of Folk¬ 
lore should be conducted, in order that it may become, what we must 
all wish it to be, a Science in something more than name. 

B. C. Temple. 

[Reprinted from The Folk-Lore Journal, vol. iv. part 3.] 

/fi - 111 * 



*.» ** _ 



Classes of spirits. 



Tree and plant worship. 

Ancestors Ancestors Ancestors Spirits Spirits are Things which -pints fcur. Present How thev In whom Disposing Times of How they Effects of Professional How How kept llg^dian Form* that ( 

1 1 . I ° ' ....... I ' .. ... ...iTl.t*— , nun .ml .iff Hlllrlts survive. impurity. 

tlir first why 

spirits. worshipped. guardians. disc 

spirits. live; what . 
they eat. 

entering. enter. getting in. exorcists— <lr»wn out. off. spirits 

- I- - . 1. 




1 "FT „ i 



places. roads. 


j® 1 



All Most Some A few No. 

diseases. ■ Uncases. disease. 

* 4 



Trees a.- Food anil Healing 

Ever- Home Tniiib Man-eater*. Healers. 

Spirit haunts. liquor trues and groves. greens haunter*, haunter*, 
yielding plants. 

tree* and 





Village Local god*, 





lity of the 

J. K. L. 

M. N. 0. 




Offerings— T le 
Animal object of 
and rituals 

human is to keep 
sacrifice. spirits 

from the 

Festivals. To what 

sent Hindu 
races is the 
spirit wor¬ 
ship due t 

Birth Ceremonies Naming. Purification 

ceremonies on the fifth of the 

immediately and sixth mother, 

before and days, 
after birth. 

Child- Polygamy, 

Wife- Widow- Polyandry, 
stealing. marriage. 


r. a 

Puberty. Pregnancy. 



Descriptive funeral rites. 

Meaning and origin. 

Between Commeiuora- 
denth and tive rites. 

end of 

Tlie belief Difference 
that man between 
lias several early and 
spirits. Brilimanic 


feeling root of 
towards religious rites. 



objects in 

• . 





V» ■ ' '■■■■ ' :-■ V-■ • ■■ *y • -'O.A ,-.V. yy.yy, y-. 

I ■ 

. V ' 1 ' ' 

' . 


1 j ■ ■ ■' ' , ' Si: ' 

1 . .. :■ 

nSRf-ft\Sr;^£ ' *■ ■ V . '■ I 0 . .• ' r~' ' 1 . 

y&w* ■ :: ’-v/tCCIh - i'S f fv ; -'v ■' : V- v' x r-' y - , ; -w. .> 


? -p.i y-y ■■•';,•><■■''. -v 4 ’; .■■■ . . y.yy, . 


t „ J' I v \ l 

' ' ' ' ' ^ 

1 - ■ . . ,; ■' 


' V ■ ■ ' ' ■ ^ ' 

■ ' S'S S ' 1 ?;.>■; m 

■ : 

■ ' ■ 

: - d ' h& Q ' i§ $ , fe i $ 1 ; I HI % % ' g£ Mm '■■■ ■ :■ H 

S su ; S SySSS > : -If SSS 

- ' m i t 



&<■ I' -1 ' J 

■ )■: - . ■ f! Hi ■ ■ ’ . U ■ '■' I . % 

:■ . ' it ■ . V ■ ■ , 4 - . . ■ 


■ . - 


, : - , . 

* , 

■ ... •..:. .- >■ ■ ■ k imtmx . m .: i m■ 

£ • ; , 1 ; m ■ r F«: 


| - . • .:■■■' : •.-.■■■ n 


- i 


■. • : r ,£f 

. v ;i ..‘v; y' ■■ : i y ■, . 

i..-': i 1 !- r . S 4 'ii '- ■' :> ri '1 

* , ^ - •• •, ,y .... 

y '■ y - ’ I ■ - . 

s: ; ^ . •' 

-Wr J'fVf ■- r> • v 

y .' 7 ■''-/£ i 

• • ft- 

-{te v>yy;..r M - 

vi» > 


V/ '-v. ■•:' ■ s -.l V. * {ul ' v % -’/«■ ::•• ''!• W ^fv ' > J. , v ;-y .0- ti; ,-y >v dV< : f>. JbJ:.- 

, . - . . . 

■ j & • . - /••;,.• .-, V v vrf ,: ' .r-v> • .. ±■■ .^‘viv'^'1-r' V- •?, 'yV-v A^'- fVr 


pi is \ r ^ S' ' 

; ' " M ‘ ' M 


' ' . 

■ ■ . -, • , -. . - .. ;-■ - y i - : 



' y .. ■: . m 



1 ;- ■ •, » >.. , . 
m ■ - '■* . ' : 


B . ’ . ■ y- ; yyy - 1 -y. ?■-, ■ y y y : y. 



- - f ■ 

. ySvSS.iS; 



* - mm m ■ t 

, • ^?P > 

1 m 

V ■ - 

* r<"~? :'■■■' X > -V- ft ■■ '■ ft -rsw .ft ' : 

BUff ■ -■•' '• . 

■:■ jh-'. .ft /•. ’ • •••'•>■ . yj.?. ft':" 

it •• ft »• . !/-*•• 1 .' ? ■• ' ~;t~ ' i - ■• - - v., '-j. -V-t . * .-. 

: .ftftft »ftft 

■ - ^t,-- ; j. - 

v.- ;-i-T■•:-•. :.S 

& *•; >v.- >&, - Vife - - - •'.? - • h : 'iXXv . £ t’f? 

^ >/ 

-* 1 # ' 


-■ •...-' V--* . • \i • t;r-;-• 

& 3 B 

• '-•' ^ v -• ■‘-•X >: *4 n U-i$?£T'”*•'• i*p • -*■ 

■ iPaii :;-v s ■ - ■ i 

- v/ - , ' ■•;■■■ - ■ - ■ ?m 

■ ■' ft'V / • ■ ft" .■'■ • ■ . • •'. -'• •'■•• • 

' ■ ; ; : 

\ .-■-. - ■ ;■ . - ■ '. • V.. • ■■■.'■■ '. >■ .■;■ -• ■- ■: ■ • 

“,V ■ .>r '' . ’ ''. ! 1 ^ ;V.’ ' '' >... -' - ■ . ■- * ■ -v 

't .-ft t ^ ■: 

V; —'. ■ v ■,’ ' zx-' ■ ■' ■ . '■* 

' ''• -. • ,'■ ■ • • ■ v '-l ■ •;. '> - ^ ■.•■••-> ' •